I’m going to start by apologising for showing this image. I have shown it in the past, well a similar one anyway. The reason I’m sharing it again is that I’ve been experimenting further with Alien Skin Exposure X4.
I shot this image back in 2016 using a Fuji X-T1. At the
time I recognised the potential of the Fuji system but couldn’t achieve a good
conversion of the RAW files using Lightroom or Photoshop. I almost gave up on
the Fuji entirely but decided to try the X-T2 because I liked using the camera
so much. The X-T1 went back as a trade in and I stuck with the X-T2 which is
now my main camera.
Although I deleted most of the images shot with the X-T1, I
did keep a few of the RAW files. I thought that I would keep these to test RAW
converters in the future. That’s why I’m sharing this image now as I processed it
using Exposure X4 and I’ve very happy with the results. When I processed this originally
using Lightroom, the trees had a terrible wiggly pattern and it lost the fine
details. Using Exposure X4 the image is full of detail and very sharp. It’s
also made a great job of recovering the shadows in the image.
I think when I have some time I’m going to do a review of a
few popular RAW converters processing Fuji RAW files. I think it will make for
an interesting experiment.
If you haven’t seen my latest video showing my recommended Exposure workflow, you can watch it on Youtube.
Over the last few months I have been noticing an increase in the image noise from my EM5. Some areas which you would expect to be free from noise, such as clouds and blue sky, are starting to display faint traces of noise. These then become quite exaggerated when processed hard with Nik filters. In addition, I was beginning to feel that the greens and blues in the EM5 images just weren’t quite right, but it was difficult to put my finger on the problem.
It’s hard to say when this started but it may be that I was becoming increasingly fussy about quality as the Sony A7r was generally producing much cleaner images. A further factor may be that where I had begun to process old RAW files from the Canon 300D I was also seeing a very clean image, surprisingly so. All these factors started to suggest to me that it might be time to upgrade the EM5 or perhaps even switch to another camera manufacturer.
My intention had been to hold out and get the new EM1 when Olympus gets around to launching but I don’t know what the timeline is. In any case, I didn’t feel that happy with the Olympus colour handling and it certainly wasn’t as good as the Sony. These perceived problems together with my impatience lead to me trying a Fuji X-T1. The Fuji line up would also give me a great ultra-wide angle lens in the 10-24mm that would also accept filters. This was a failing of the Micro 43 ultra wides with only the Olympus 9-18mm taking filters but which suffers from edge distortion at 9mm (at least that’s what I was telling myself).
Hopefully this gives you an idea why last week I purchased a used Fuji X-T1 together with 2 lenses. Now the EM5 has taken revenge by making me regret this decision.
At the weekend I collected the new camera from the post office and headed off to the Peak District to try it out (between the heavy showers). Later with the images on my computer, what I saw shocked me. I called my wife in to get her opinion of the images and the first words out of her mouth was that the Fuji image “looked like a watercolour painting”, and that’s without zooming in on the detail. You can see this image below.
When you zoom in to the detail you don’t see much at all other than blur. Take a look at this 100% crop from the point of focus. You may need to click the image below to appreciate it fully.
Now let’s compare this with an image shot on the EM5 from a couple of weeks earlier.
And again, here is a 100% crop from the point of focus.
Both images have been sharpened only slightly in Lightroom as part of the conversion from RAW. I found I couldn’t sharpen the Fuji very much without causing artefacts. Both images have noise reduction turned off. Both sections are from the point of focus.
I can also tell you that this effect has occurred on all the Fuji images using both lenses and across different apertures. Fine details just vanish and become smudged.
I find this unusual as a friend who has the same Fuji shared a RAW file with me before I bought the camera so I could check the image quality and it was much better than I seem to be able to achieve. Another friend has also just shared a link with me which confirms the “watercolour” effect is a known problem with the Fuji XTrans sensor when using Adobe RAW converters.
I will need to investigate this further but if I can’t find an easy solution the camera will need to go back. This would be a shame as it’s a really great camera to use. Perhaps I should have waited for the EM1 MKII after all.